Swim around Key West Training Plan

edited December 2020 in Beginner Questions
I am new to open water swimming and have decided that I would like to try to complete the swim around Key West next year solo. I want to know peoples opinions on the volume of training I will need to complete the swim and if it is even a reasonable goal. My background is 20 or so triathlons including most recently escape from alcatraz, and ironman lake tahoe. I have never swam more than 2.4 miles. My time for tahoe was respectable by triathlete standards at a 1:15. I would categorize myself as a slower swimmer 1:18/100 YD the fastest I've ever done and usually settle in around1:45 TO 1:50/100yd. I would also say that although these times are slow I can maintain them for long periods of time without any discomfort. I know that this will be a huge undertaking, but feel mentally strong after tackling an ironman. My only goal would be to finish inside the 8 hour cutoff which I think equates to roughly a 2:11/100yd for 12.5 miles. What says everyone? Thanks for the help, suggestions and training volume plans.
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Comments

  • gregocgregoc Charter Member
    Most importantly, only do the one organized by the FKCC. They are well organized and make safety a priority. The organizers do not swim their own event.

    The water will be warm >85 degrees. You will need to hydrate more than usual.

    Your speed will not be an issue. You will get a bit of a push on the gulf side of the island. At your pace you should be able to finish in about 6-6.5 hours.

    There is a lot of good info on workouts and swim prep on this forum. Build your weekly yardage slowly. KW is a fun town to hang out in after the swim.
  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNSenior Member
    Graham - I'm getting ready to swim the one not FKCC here in a couple of weeks and can send you what I've done for my long swims since January. My email is adventurechick3 at yahoo . We'll see how it all works out, but can also give you an update once I'm done on lessons learned as a first-timer. I'm shooting for a 6hr race myself and hoping to get within :15 mins either direction of that. Several folks on this site have done that one.
    Kari
    Dario
  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member
    Graham--your completion goal is well within reason. Determination & training discipline are among the most important variables, and you appear to have both. In setting pace goals, don't forget to add in a substantial amount of time for feeding/hydration (3-5 minutes an hour). Very difficult for anyone not named Graham Johnson to comment on training volume, since we are all so very different, but as a recovering triathlete myself, I'd speculate that its less than what you think. :O

    "Lights go out and I can't be saved
    Tides that I tried to swim against
    Have brought be down upon my knees
    Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • what does it suggest on loneswimmer.com? i thought he said swim the distance every week, so 12.5/week and be able to complete half the distance in a single swim? Sorry if this information was wrongly sited loneswimmer. I swam an "adventure swim" of 10 miles last summer and that's what i based my training off of. i gotta do it again because I wore a suit :( Its a lot of time to commit but as you are an Ironman I'm guessing you've already cut that time into your daily life.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited June 2014
    Just a friendly reminder to please take advantage of the Forum archives for "training plan"-type questions - this a frequently discussed topic.

    For example, there is a thread titled, I kid you not:
    What is an Appropriate Weekly Mileage for Completing Marathon Swims

    There's also lots of good stuff in the training tag archive:

    http://www.marathonswimmers.org/forum/discussions/tagged/training
    Kari33
  • jmw1072jmw1072 New JerseyMember
    I am interested in the Key West swim as well. & any training plan or words of wisdom as well. My plan is to swim Key West in 2016. I am a lifelong swimmer, but a beginner in the field of long or marathon swim. Thanks. Will be following this topic! :-*
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member
    Listen to Gregoc. The FKCC swim is the one to do. I've done it 4 times from 1996-1999. It's a 20K, so not overly long. It's challenging for a few reasons. You'll have to negotiate Cow Key Channel. The tide is usually coming in and the entire Atlantic Ocean feels like it's coming through. Stay it the extreme right of the channel. The water is very hot. I moved my feeds down to every 6 minutes and still suffered. The salinity of the water there seems to be a little more than other places I've been to. Make sure you've picked a good anti-chafe remedy. I like Sport Slick.

    Make sure to load up on sunscreen. Once around Dredgers Key the water becomes shallow and the bottom is sandy. Lots of light will reflect up and burn your front side. Once on this leg aim for the Holiday Inn (?) to the right of Cow Key channel.

    For me, training is the same for a 20K as well as a 20K. Get in some good yardage, but don't completely blow off speed work. You'll need to call on your legs from time to time.

    Do your best to train some in salt water. Our bodies respond to salt water than regular fresh water.

    Enjoy your training and the race.

    Chris

    IronMike
  • allanl16allanl16 Miami, FloridaMember
    edited March 2017

    swimmer25k said:
    For me, training is the same for a 20K as well as a 20K. Get in some good yardage, but don't completely blow off speed work. You'll need to call on your legs from time to time.

    Do your best to train some in salt water. Our bodies respond to salt water than regular fresh water.

    Hey Chris I'm doing the event this year and wanted to know if you had a training plan and/or sets I could use? Thanks!

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    allanl16 said:

    swimmer25k said:
    For me, training is the same for a 20K as well as a 20K. Get in some good yardage, but don't completely blow off speed work. You'll need to call on your legs from time to time.

    Do your best to train some in salt water. Our bodies respond to salt water than regular fresh water.

    Hey Chris I'm doing the event this year and wanted to know if you had a training plan and/or sets I could use? Thanks!

    Allan,

    Drop me an email to swimmer25k@hotmail.com and we can talk. How much time do you train per week, how much yardage do you get per workout, and what pace can you hold of you had to do 100X100s (for example). Just so I can get a feel for what you've been doing.

    The water their is super-hot, so you'll need to feed more than usual. My feeding schedule was usually every 12-15 minutes. I dropped it down to 8 for Key West. If you dehydrate quickly (like me), try looking into a product called Success Caps. Good salt replacement supplement.

    Talk to you soon,
    Chris

    Kari33
  • JustinJustin Baltimore, MDMember

    swimmer25k said:

    allanl16 said:

    swimmer25k said:
    For me, training is the same for a 20K as well as a 20K. Get in some good yardage, but don't completely blow off speed work. You'll need to call on your legs from time to time.

    Do your best to train some in salt water. Our bodies respond to salt water than regular fresh water.

    Hey Chris I'm doing the event this year and wanted to know if you had a training plan and/or sets I could use? Thanks!

    Allan,

    Drop me an email to swimmer25k@hotmail.com and we can talk. How much time do you train per week, how much yardage do you get per workout, and what pace can you hold of you had to do 100X100s (for example). Just so I can get a feel for what you've been doing.

    The water their is super-hot, so you'll need to feed more than usual. My feeding schedule was usually every 12-15 minutes. I dropped it down to 8 for Key West. If you dehydrate quickly (like me), try looking into a product called Success Caps. Good salt replacement supplement.

    Talk to you soon,
    Chris

    I am also signed up for this swim for this summer as well and was looking for some advice on nutrition, I can go about 8 miles in a pool without food or drink but I haven't swam in warm water or so far south before. Do you think I could send you an email as well?

  • Hello Forum-
    I am getting ready for the Key West swim this year in 2018. Don't want to re-create the forum posts here, but would like to know how it went for those swimmers who prepared and swam KW.

    How many yds./week did you swim at the end of your training plan?

    How did you manage your hydration during the swim?

    Where did you get a current to push(which leg) and where did you get a current pull?

    What surprise you during the swim? Good and Bad?

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    SaberSix said:
    Hello Forum-
    I am getting ready for the Key West swim this year in 2018. Don't want to re-create the forum posts here, but would like to know how it went for those swimmers who prepared and swam KW.

    How many yds./week did you swim at the end of your training plan?

    How did you manage your hydration during the swim?

    Where did you get a current to push(which leg) and where did you get a current pull?

    What surprise you during the swim? Good and Bad?

    I usually swam 3-4 long races a year up until I got hurt a few years back. I was good for 70-80K/week. Usually about 2:30 every evening after work with a 15K ocean swim on the weekends.

    I cramp up a ton in warm water, so I hydrated every ten minutes. I went hand to had with My kayaker passing drinks back and forth. I can't say that I ever had a good race there. It's just too damned hot for a well fed porpoise such as myself.

    The only current assist was being shoved past Cauley Square area (about four miles in). The back Bay Area and the flats leading to Cow Key Channel didn't slow me down until Cow Key Channel. It is an absolute bitch, which will make you question why you chose the swim.

    The only surprise I received at the end was wondering how someone as dehydrated as me could throw up so much.

    SaberSix
  • Very helpful, thank you!

    The reality of me getting to multiple hours in the pool on multiple days in a week are slim.

    I’m swimming an hour a day 4-5 days a week. Each session about 3300yds or so.

    I could increase up closer to the event but having big the time to swim that much is very difficult... youngsters and all.

    I’d like to be swimming 2 hours per swim 4-5 days the two week lead up to the swim. 6-7k per swim.

    Am I not going to cut it?

    Not enough in reality?

    Need a reality check if that is not enough.

    Thx again!

  • JustinJustin Baltimore, MDMember

    SaberSix said:
    Hello Forum-
    I am getting ready for the Key West swim this year in 2018. Don't want to re-create the forum posts here, but would like to know how it went for those swimmers who prepared and swam KW.

    How many yds./week did you swim at the end of your training plan?

    How did you manage your hydration during the swim?

    Where did you get a current to push(which leg) and where did you get a current pull?

    What surprise you during the swim? Good and Bad?

    Hey SaberSix,

    I swam it last year and am also racing in it again this year. In the weeks leading up before the race I was doing 30-50k per week, a pool swim in the morning and an open water swim in the evening. For hydration, the water was 87 degrees I think on race day and it was a nice hot day, I was told to eat and drink a lot during the swim, but I only ate about 8 powerbar gels and not even 1 bottle of water (I had about 7 bottles on the kayak), not the best decision but I made it through fine. For the Current push and pull, you get a nice push right before the start of Mile 5, the Flemming Key Cut (only lasts a minute or 2), never had a problem with a current against me. Some things that surprised me on the swim: I was expecting to see a lot of marine life but saw almost nothing, how the visibility goes from decent from miles 1-4, to crystal clear after mile 5, and also how fast the swim goes by, I had a miserable time for the first 2 miles and it felt like time was going slow-mo (probably because I was nervous, but after Mallory Square time flew by and next thing I knew I was at the finish. Overall it is a great swim, was really sore the next day but it was worth it.

    For your other question about the distances you are doing, we are still 4 months so I think for the next month it is okay to be doing that distance, but definitely want to up that distance because only having a max swim session of 1-2 hours (4-6 miles) is not gonna help when the race is 4-6 hours and 12.5 miles. Weekdays might be hard depending on your schedule, but weekends are when you want to put in a big swim (time wise or mileage).

    SaberSix
  • BHillBHill Des Moines, IAMember

    I'm doing SAKW here in a couple days and throughout the training i've done so far I have been hitting 25 -30 K per week for the last couple months, hopefully that will be enough. Good luck to everyone swimming this weekend.

    Solo
  • Lori_kLori_k Member

    I loved the Key West Swim. I did the SAKW but that was a timing thing more than selecting the better one. I have heard mixed about both. I think it depends on the weather and the day. We swam at the start of a hurricane so it was a bit crazy. Beautiful swim though and people line the bridge to cheer you on. I think all the advice given above is good. I would work up some volume as you get closer. Maybe doing a 2 hour straight swim one day then a 4 hour the next week. If you can get into the open water and do the 4 hour that would be ideal and you can practice your feeds. Then hold steady back to what you were doing. I think working on consistency with sets is key. if you are going to do 200s, test yourself by doing 10 x 200s holding the same time for each and getting little rest and going and holding that time again. So, for example, 10 x 200s on the 2:45 (coming in consistently on the 2:37-2:40 then going again and hitting the same time of 2:37-2:40). These should be on a time that is not super fast but where you are feeling strong and consistent throughout. Once you get into a rhythm and build endurance, you should be able to hold the same speed and time consistently for longer. 100 x 100s are good. I've done them where I am holding 1:17s and leaving on 1:20. The first 20 are terrible but once you get into a groove hitting the wall and going should feel automatic and start to feel good. Just some suggestions on specific things to work on. Sorry so winded but Key West was truly a beautiful swim for me. I built up from 2 mile swims, to 5ks then 10ks and then key west was my next step. You will love. Just be safe with the sun

    evmo
  • SAKW was great!
    Cool open water swim!
    Im so happy for chanse to swam in Key West!

    Jaimie
  • DarioDario TexasNew Member
    edited December 2020

    Hi everyone,

    Any recommendations of some good books to read regarding long open water swims? I am getting ready to do the Swim Around key West. If anyone have done this race and would like to share some wisdom with me, I would really appreciate.

    miklcct
  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    here is a previous thread with lots of info. Best of luck!!

    https://forum.marathonswimmers.org/discussion/2149/florida-keys-swims#latest

    IronMike
  • lucyloulucylou MidwestNew Member
    edited May 2022

    Hi all! Kayaking for a friend at SAKW in July, have seen lots of folks talking about a fairly strong current assist in several spots on the route. Can anyone tell me how much of an assist we're talking about, in terms of seconds/100 and about how long the assist lasts (1/4-mile, 1/2 mile, etc.)?

    Many thanks, excited to be doing this.

  • Openh2oOpenh2o Member
    edited May 2022

    Strong and so speed current!
    Keep in mind befor Fleming bridge!
    When i swam i dont know( not read and hear on brifing) that bridge have pilons!!!
    100% nightmare!
    I crash on bridge!
    Was unreal!
    I say befor so bloody hot swim!
    But for me SAKW is one and only!
    All was fantastic people with Bill and him team.organisacion. all
    Key West is cool.only one is not for me......expensive place!)))
    Be health and good luck!

    LakeBaggerMLambylucylou
  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    There is a BIG push when you get to the Fleming Key Bridge, but it doesn't last as long as you would like it to. :) Maybe a couple hundred yards or so. Then, there is a nice little current assist once you get to Cow Key Bridge. That one isn't as strong, but it lasts much longer....maybe 1/2 a mile or so and is a welcome relief. (at least when I did my swim). The first two to three miles and last two miles will be against the current, making that last push really hard, especially if it is really hot and or really choppy. If you are piloting this race for the first time, I would suggest maybe doing it once on your own to get "the lay of the land" because there is a lot of very important navigating to be done. This race is definitely as long or short as the kayaker makes it. You have to get to Mile 5 on time or they shut off the course due to a rapid current shift, miles 6-8 are crucial to getting the shortest/fastest line, and miles 9-10 can end the racer's day due to REALLY shallow depths, etc. At the least, maybe see if you can get a really thorough rundown from one of the regular kayakers or swimmers in the area. All the best.

    LakeBaggerlucyloujendutKari33
  • lucyloulucylou MidwestNew Member

    Very helpful, thank you!

    MLamby
  • ismuqattashismuqattash Long Island, NYMember

    @MLamby - How have you been? 3.5 weeks till FKCC KW and my training has slowed down (both in volume and in quality) due to some elbow pain,. Oh well will make it a fun swim. By my main concern is that 5 mile cutoff of 2.5 hours. Debating if I want to ask for an earlier start, but would be much more fun to start with everyone. How badly did the tide slow you down per 100 the first few miles? Typically 2MPH is my happy very comfortable pace, but factor in strong current against you and 2MPH may not feel too easy anymore....

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member
    edited May 2022

    I'm good!! If your sweet spot average is 2mph, I think you'll be fine. Of course, heat and chop are variables that can make things harder, but it looks like the air temp is going to be in the mid to high 80s for your swim, and the water temp as of now is around 82-83 with three weeks to go, and it's not calling for any storms as of now for that weekend or prior, so that's all pretty good. (air was 95 and water was 89 when I swam it). Also, the current isn't as bad at the beginning of the race as it is at the end. I think you're gonna rock it! Have a great swim!!

    ismuqattashOpenh2o
  • ismuqattashismuqattash Long Island, NYMember

    Cool thanks man, I appreciate it!

    MLamby
  • Openh2oOpenh2o Member
    edited May 2022

    Food and cold beer around Duval always great !😎
    Viva Key West!
    Magic place and best hot OW!😃
    Good luck

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    Cow Key channel around the 9 mile mark will have a wicked current in your face. Keep to the right as you round Sigsbee Park and enter the channel from the side.

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    SO?? How did the swim go???

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    Never mind! Isa with the big win!! Congrats!! Talented board we have!!! :) All the best!

    ismuqattash
  • ismuqattashismuqattash Long Island, NYMember
    edited August 2022

    @MLamby thanks bud. Sorry I have been away but here is my race recap (finally)!

    Weather was perfect. Calm seas. We started at 11am in what felt like ~80 degree water. Lots of relays (and hence boats) but they were all wonderful and kept in what seems like a single file. Mile 1 came in at 28ish minutes, nice and easy. Kept telling myself not to get excited and to just keep cruising as I was slightly ahead of the 2mph that I was aiming for. The cutoff at mile ~4.5 came much sooner than I thought in around 2:15 into the race I believe. Zoom #1 felt short through that inlet and then we worked past the boat mooring area to some very hot and shallow 2ft water @ 2pm. That part was TOUGH. My heart rate skyrocketed and I asked my awesome kayaker and buddy Mike to switch me to just water instead of Infinit. I figured the minerals would have made my HR spike even worse. The water felt like 100 degrees with hotter pockets that felt like boiling water (I'm sure it wasn't a tually boiling but man did it feel HOT). If there was anywhere that I doubted myself it was in that shallow water. Finally we get to the main boat channel heading back to the main key west/hotel and the "deeper" channel felt like an ice bath relative to that hot water. Navigation through the channel was tricky as it was hard to tell if the red flags were on anchored marker boats vs diver flags on relay boats. So we zigzagged a bit and were glad to make it through there. That's where my GPS on my Garmin watch froze.... Then came zoom #2 which was a beautiful long stretch under the bridge and all the way to the airport, that was SWEET! Finally, we make the right turn into tough head on current on the ocean side and has to fight hard to make progress. We were moving but VERY SLOWLY. A relay boat was next to us and they were kind enough to tell us that we had one mile to go (Mike's watch ran out of battery around mile 10). But that relay boat also almost crashes into us when they lost control lol. Was actually pretty funny. Super nice folks and the guy blamed the wife. Was a good time for a joke and quick laugh. All was good and we raced their relay crew till the end when their top swimmer hopped in and smoked is, but I was determined to not let the other two relay members touch the yellow buoy before me. That was fun and once I stopped I was relieved with zero left in the tank. Hung out in the water by the finish buoy and lost my goggles there, go figure! We took our sweet time and got to shore and hung out with all the AWESOME people. Finish time was 5:24 minutes, first age group (only three entrants) and 10th or 11th overall amongst the solo swimmers. Chaffed shoulders from rubbing against my beard and a tongue that entirely peeled the next day from all the salt water, and a very swollen uvula the took two days to calm down. Oh and a lifetime memory that won't wash away :)

    Openh2ocurlyMLamby
  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    BIG PROPS!!! and Congratulations!! Thanks for the recap. All the best!

    ismuqattash
  • SleepingInSleepingIn North CarolinaNew Member
    edited May 16

    1) Is my training enough
    2) Current fueling plan is a gel every hour with water. Any advice or anecdotes? Stomach isn't sensitive so not worried about experimenting

    Training for the JUNE 8TH one. Former competitive swimmer, wasn't college level fast or anything. Very bad at keeping consistent training, but really keeping up with things lately. Just did my first 10km swim at just under 3 hours. Took a gel at 4k. Is there like a certain proportion where completing a practice long swim will equal the effort come race day. Kind oflike how if you can run 8 miles you can do a half.

    Also any advice on pacing plans for the key west swim would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • LakeBaggerLakeBagger Central OregonSenior Member
    edited May 21

    1) I wonder this before every swim, but this is a question that you cannot answer by thinking or asking others. It can only be answered by your experience on race day.
    2) Try to get 250 calories or 60 carbs/hour no more no less (unless combining with fructose, then maybe 90 carbs/hour).

    Excellent advice from experts over the years on training plans here: https://forum.marathonswimmers.org/discussion/1811/

    Have an amazing time on your swim and come back and update us how it went!!!

    Openh2o
  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    @SleepingIn said:
    1) Is my training enough
    2) Current fueling plan is a gel every hour with water. Any advice or anecdotes? Stomach isn't sensitive so not worried about experimenting

    Training for the JUNE 8TH one. Former competitive swimmer, wasn't college level fast or anything. Very bad at keeping consistent training, but really keeping up with things lately. Just did my first 10km swim at just under 3 hours. Took a gel at 4k. Is there like a certain proportion where completing a practice long swim will equal the effort come race day. Kind oflike how if you can run 8 miles you can do a half.

    Also any advice on pacing plans for the key west swim would be appreciated. Thanks!

    You’re not drinking enough. Try every 12-15 minutes. You can always spread out your feeds if you’re maintaining your hydration (peeing regularly). It’s too late to start drinking when you’re cramping up.

    I’ve done Key West 4 times and led for part of each one but got third 3 times and fourth the last time. I explode in the hot water even after hydrating every 10 minutes in that swim.

    Trust me. Once an hour to drink is a huge mistake.

    LakeBaggerOpenh2o
  • curlycurly Issaquah, WASenior Member

    @swimmer25k said:

    You’re not drinking enough. Try every 12-15 minutes. You can always spread out your feeds if you’re maintaining your hydration (peeing regularly). It’s too late to start drinking when you’re cramping up.

    I’ve done Key West 4 times and led for part of each one but got third 3 times and fourth the last time. I explode in the hot water even after hydrating every 10 minutes in that swim.

    Trust me. Once an hour to drink is a huge mistake.

    I'm curious. To me this seems like a heck of a lot of hydration, (12-15 minutes) so I'm wondering if this is the recommended amount when swimming in warm or hot water. I tend to drink a relatively small amount of water in general, so I'm probably always under hydrated. When swimming pool workouts in warm water, I don't even bring a water bottle. I've been swimming that way since I was a kid, so maybe I'm just acclimated, I don't know...

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    @curly said:

    @swimmer25k said:

    You’re not drinking enough. Try every 12-15 minutes. You can always spread out your feeds if you’re maintaining your hydration (peeing regularly). It’s too late to start drinking when you’re cramping up.

    I’ve done Key West 4 times and led for part of each one but got third 3 times and fourth the last time. I explode in the hot water even after hydrating every 10 minutes in that swim.

    Trust me. Once an hour to drink is a huge mistake.

    I'm curious. To me this seems like a heck of a lot of hydration, (12-15 minutes) so I'm wondering if this is the recommended amount when swimming in warm or hot water. I tend to drink a relatively small amount of water in general, so I'm probably always under hydrated. When swimming pool workouts in warm water, I don't even bring a water bottle. I've been swimming that way since I was a kid, so maybe I'm just acclimated, I don't know...

    Key West is super salty and super hot. I drank every 15 minutes in the English Channel and only peed a few times. If you’re not “going”, you’re dehydrated and there’s no recovering from that. You can always increase the time between feeds if you’re peeing.

    Once an hour is a mistake.

    curly
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